Cheers for “Sweet Charity”

The musical is filled with colorful characters and laugh-out-loud moments

Hamline’s theatre department opened their fall musical, “Sweet Charity” on Friday, Nov. 10. Although the show was their last resort, after attempts to put on “Spring Awakening” and “Chicago” fell through due to complications with casting and performance rights, the cast and crew still put together a production that proved to be a rollicking tour de force in the short window of time they had been allotted.  

First-year Kia Brown shines as Charity Hope Valentine, conveying exactly the amount of naive exuberance and optimism that defines the titular character’s personality. A hopeless romantic, Charity is always willing to believe in people’s inherent goodness and harbors faith that one day, she will find a man who will love her unconditionally despite her scandalous career as a dance hall hostess, or “taxi dancer,” at New York City’s seedy Fandango Ballroom. Charity’s colleagues at the Fandango, while they show her kindness and solidarity, are painfully aware that they’re stuck in the disreputable occupation for good and that Charity’s romantic escapades, no matter how genuine they may seem, will only cause her heartache in the end.

A particularly memorable musical selection is “Big Spender” performed by the taxi dancers as they attempt to seduce their male customers at the Fandango. A slow but dramatic tune, it was a fitting number to demonstrate the extent of the ensemble’s vocal ranges and dance skills. Another standout was found in hippie hymn “Rhythm of Life.” From the moment Charity’s nerdy love interest Oscar, played by sophomore Jackson Cobb, laid out the exposition for the song by saying “Would you like to come to… the Rhythm of Life church? It started out as a jazz group in San Francisco, and now it’s a religion. They meet under the Manhattan Bridge!”, it was clear that this scene would be a spectacle, and it did not disappoint. The ensemble’s portrayal of stoned hippies experiencing a moment of spiritual fervor was pure comedy.

Despite the appearance of only two male actors in the 12-member cast, Cobb and first-year Kyrin Sturdivant, whose largest appearance was as the extravagant and intriguing film star Vittorio Vidal, were willing to double, triple, and even quadruple up on roles. The fact that Cobb portrayed both Charity’s boorish lover Charlie at the beginning of the show and her new flame Oscar, who also jilts her at the end, seems to humorously convey the message that all men are the same- in this case, literally- and will only break Charity’s heart. While it would have been satisfying to see Charity break free at last from the rut of her lowly status and live happily ever after with Oscar, her optimistic nature prevents her from letting her lover’s callous dismissal turn into something of a Shakespearean tragedy. After mulling over the breakup for a few minutes, Charity quickly returns to her sunny ways and reminds herself that “I’m the bravest individual I have ever met!”, giving the audience hope that, one day, she might truly find her happily-ever-after.

If the winter chill has got you feeling down, it will be worthwhile to take in this warm-hearted show at one of its upcoming performances on Nov. 16, 17 and 18, all at 7:30 p.m. in the Anne Simley Theater.